02 Feb 2011

Universities in England are to receive a further cut to their budgets in the current academic year, according to the funding agency HEFCE.

  In its grant settlement, HEFCE also announced further cuts totalling £685 million or 9.5% for 2011-12. 

  The Chief Executive of HEFCE, Sir Alan Langland, admitted this was “a challenging financial settlement”.


 The University and College Union described it as "another slap in the face for universities".

Cuts this academic year

 The extra cut for the current academic year arises because the government’s reduced grant to universities, set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review, is based on financial years. Universities had already received their funding for the academic year 2010-11 but 4 months of the financial year 2011-12 fall into the current academic year, which runs until the end of July.

  The extra cuts this year amount to £122 million (2.8%) for teaching and £27.6 million (1.7%) for research.

 Cuts for 2011-12

The grant total for the academic year 2011-12 will be £6,507 million. Compared to the original budgets for 2010-11 this means a 5.7% cut in recurrent funding and a 54% cut in capital budgets.

  In 2011-12 research funding will be concentrated even more in centres of excellence with an increased proportion going to departments rated 4* and 3* and a reduction for those rated 2*. It is planned that by 2012-13 there will be no HEFCE funding for research for 2* departments.

The Universities Minister, David Willetts, admitted that the coming year was "undoubtedly a year of transition for universities" but said the government had done its best to protect teaching budgets.

But Pam Tatlow of the Million+universities group said the cuts "call into question the Coalition's insistence that it values teaching and its understanding of the vital economic role played by universities".

Paul Marshall from the 1994 group said taking £45m away from next year’s research budget "sends out worrying signals, particularly in light of Pfizer’s decision to close a major UK facility".

Universities will be told their individual funding allocations on 14th March.  

 Student Numbers

The HEFCE announcement also covers limits on student numbers. It says 37 institutions exceeded their limit for recruiting students in autumn 2010. Subject to appeal, these universities and colleges will be fined at a rate of £3,750 per excess student.

 Student entries for September 2011 are to remain at the same level as last year. 

New tuition fees

Looking ahead to the lifting of the cap on tuition fees from the academic year 2012-13, Mr Willetts said this would "put finding in the hands of students" instead of universities relying on central grant allocations.

He added: "By 2014-15 we expect public support for universities to rise by 10%, as institutions that attract students through high quality courses are given the ability to thrive. It is essential that universities move quickly to prepare for the different environment in which they will operate in future years, striving to meet the aspirations of students for high quality teaching".

 Full details of the HEFCE announcement:

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